Standing Out in a Sea of Swipes: Navigating the Gender Imbalance of Online Dating

Tara Blair Ball
Dating appPhoto byAlexander SinnonUnsplash

It was a Friday night when I turned to my husband and said, “Let’s do an informal experiment.”

“What?” he asked, tilting his ear closer to me while still intently watching the game.

“Let’s create fake dating profiles.”

He blinked and looked at me and said, “So…my wife would like us bothto get on a dating app.”

“Yup!” I said cheerily.

He shook his head and calmly said, “What do you want me to do?”

The experiment was this:

  1. Download Tinder, the most popular dating app in our city (and how we met a couple of years ago actually);
  2. Upload a single stock image of someone of the same gender as us (wearing professional clothing);
  3. Have the exact same bio (“First time on here. Recently divorced. Just checking this out.”);
  4. Have the same age (38 years old); and
  5. Swipe right on everyone.

We each made our profiles, swiped right until Tinder let us know we’d have to pay for more likes, and then didn’t bother with it until the next morning.

In less than 12 hours, my profile had 43 matches and 22 messages. My husband’s had 17 and 1 message.

Over the 3 days we ran this experiment, my profile got 112 matches and 68 messages. My husband’s got 36 matches and 5 messages.

Our informal experiment confirmed what much of the research says about how online dating is for men and women today.

1. There are more men than women on dating apps.

In one study conducted in 2018, 47.6% of users were women, but those stats can change based on dating app/site being used and location.

In Tinder’s most recent report, it had only 38% women users.

2. Women get more messages than men.

While it’s unclear to me whether the source below is meaning more firstmessages or just messages in general, there is a huge gender disparity when it comes to who is and who isn’t receiving messages.
DataPhoto byPew Research Center

That particular source states that 57% of men feel that they didn’t receive enough messages vs. 24% of women.

3. The first message is extremely important.

Of the 68 messages I received, only one truly stood out.

When I was single and looking, I may have checked out the profiles of the men who messaged me to decide who I did and didn’t want to speak to. But since this was an experiment, I focused on the messages separate from the profiles.

The vast majority (97%) were some approximation of “Hey,” and/or “How are you doing?/What are you doing tonight?” and/or a compliment. 3 sentences/questions max (but usually more like 1).

Of the three messages that did not follow the above framework, one was an ask for explicit photos (hell no), and another was the user’s painful recount of his most recent dating history (also no.).

And then there was the one that stood out to me: “If you came with a warning label, what would it say?”

Looking at the messages alone, one thing was extremely clear: in order to stand out from the herd of men that may be matching with the same woman you are trying to match with, you have to send the one unique and clever message.

4. Traditional gender roles dominate dating apps.

In a 2018 study, men are 30% more likely than women to make the first move. Women who do reach out also receive 15% fewer responses than men.

Around 14% of my husband’s matches sent him a message vs. 61% of mine sent me one.

5. Men are more likely to persist than women.

My husband and I agreed that we wouldn’t message any of the people who messaged us because we didn’t want to lead anyone on.

While my husband’s profile received five total messages (all first messages), I received 81 total messages. 68 were first messages, and I counted all messages sent 12 hours or more later as “follow-up” messages. 13 extra were follow-up (These messages might be something like, “Good morning,” “Hope you had a nice Saturday!” or a conversational opener like, “I just watched ____ last night. Have you seen it?”).

Here’s what you should gather from this:

You are just a number.

Since, statistically, there are always more men than women on dating apps, women have the power.

You have got to peacock your way into the peahen’s heart.

You can do that through your profile (since research shows that women swipe more selectively than men do) AND your first message.

Only swipe on and message women you’re interested in.

Online dating should never be like you’re using birdshot to kill a deer.

Instead, be selective. Read their profiles. Make sure they want the same things as you do (think: if you want something casual, don’t start messaging a woman who says she’s looking for something serious). Be thoughtful in how you message, and if they don’t message back, just move on.

Just because online dating may be harder for men doesn’t mean you should give up. As a Relationship Coach, I know that technology can and should work to your benefit. But if whatever you were doing before wasn’t working, you have to change.

Instead of swiping right and messaging every woman you can, make a good profile, be thoughtful, and most of all, don’t be like every other dude.

Comments / 10

Published by

Tara Blair Ball is a Certified Relationship Coach and author of Grateful in Love: A Daily Gratitude Journal for Couples, A Couples Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships with a 7-Step Guided Journal. She has a Master's from the University of Memphis and is accredited by CTAA. You can find her on Tiktok, Instagram, or YouTube at @tara.relationshipcoach.

Memphis, TN

More from Tara Blair Ball

Comments / 0